What are the Best Old-School Microphones of 2021?

Best Old-School Microphones of 2021 intro image

A few years ago, if we wanted a nice-sounding retro microphone, we had to track down collectors, go to auctions, and save a thick wad of bills to buy one. Thankfully, we no longer need to dive deep into thrift stores or scour antique fairs to find a fantastic vintage microphone, and it started to get so costly that it practically defied the whole purpose in the first place.

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Nowadays, you can spend less and get a much more affordable (and functional) alternative. Vintage microphone clones have all the aesthetic appeal of retro microphones combined with up-to-date performance quality. They are practical, useful, and perfectly capable of recording a podcast, album, or live performance.

This microphone guide will help you find the best old-school microphones combining modern technology, vintage appeal, and excellent sound quality. Before we jump into our unique top 10 review section, let’s take a brief look at microphone history and how microphones changed the way we sing and perform today.

A Brief History of Microphones

Frank Sinatra famously said his instrument wasn’t his voice but his microphone. We can all agree Sinatra was a genius of his time, and his humble confession emphasizes the drastic change over 60 years when the electric microphone gained popularity.

Of course, being heard has always been an important factor during a performance. The ancient Greeks built their theaters in ways that could amplify their voice to the seats at the back. Opera singers still use crazy vocal techniques to project their voices so the audience can hear them over the orchestra.

Before the electric microphone gained popularity in the 1920s, singing required immense talent and a lot of skill and training. It was also challenging to record vocals without the luxury of electric microphones. Likewise, many kinds of music produced before the 1920s featured an orchestra performing in front of a giant tube. This type of acoustic recording funneled the sound through a vibrating diaphragm, which was then etched onto a wax disk. 

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Singers had a particularly tough time recording that way. If you were asked to record vocals, this meant you had to run to the front of the gigantic tube, sing your bit directly into it, and quickly move away. There were no tone controls, and this analog recording couldn’t process a vast range of audio frequencies. Thankfully, in 1925, the electric microphone became widely popular and changed audio recording forever.

1920s Microphone

David Edward Hughes invented the carbon microphone in the 1920s, which became the prototype of the carbon mics that you can find in telephone transmitters today. E. E. Wente developed the Oktava 319 condenser mic in Bell Labs, the first microphone used for audio recording. Many people were working on developing microphones during that time, and Dr. Harry Olsen’s research is credited with the birth of the RCA PB-31. This ribbon mic sounded a lot better than the condenser mics being developed at the time. 

As you can see, the electric microphone was constantly tinkered with during the 1920s. What kicked it off was the radio broadcast. The ability to convert a voice into an electrical signal and have it reach the homes of thousands of people was phenomenal. A singer no longer had to raise their voice or sing louder. There were amplifiers for this exact purpose. People didn’t have to go to music halls to listen to a singer, and all they had to do was turn on the radio. The days of singing into a funnel were finally gone.

1930s Microphone

In the 1930s, the Siemens company developed a new type of microphone, called a cardioid dynamic microphone. This microphone was based on the works of Ernst Werner von Siemens dating back to 1984. Singers like Rudy Vallée jumped on the opportunity to try it. The microphone sounded lush on his sweet and soft voice, an essential factor for a crooner. 

Crooning was a definitive style of singing, popular with many performers in the late 1920s. Crooning had a unique note bounce and sounded a lot like singing a lullaby. It was so specific and soft at the same time that microphones developed in the years prior couldn’t replicate that subtle vibrato. Female listeners loved it! 

The first pop stars of the twentieth century were the Crooners. Singers were in high demand. After all, crooning was the new language of love. If you don’t believe me, listen to “Learn to Croon” by Bing Crosby, a famous crooner during that time. He sings:

Learn to croon

If you want to win your heart’s desire

Sweet melodies of love inspire

Romance

Perhaps the most definitive 1930s microphone was the ribbon microphone. It managed to capture a broader spectrum of vocal frequencies and, with that, inspired singers to try out different techniques and styles. You probably wouldn’t be “dreaming of a white Christmas” if it wasn’t the ribbon mic. 

1940s Microphone

The 1940s were the golden years for singers like Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. Billie Holiday had such a unique approach to the microphone, and she sounded like she was gently speaking into it, almost like she was conveying a secret.

Sinatra, on the other hand, knew full well the disadvantages of the microphones of the 1940s. However, the harsh sounds caused by plosives from the letters “t,” “p,” and “b” didn’t stop him from performing beautifully. He tailored his entire performance so that the mic only picked up the sounds he wanted. It was no wonder these singers were responsible for the creation of jazz standards during that age. 

1950s Microphone

Enter the age of Buddy Guy, Elvis Presley, and Muddy Waters. The era where television and film technology boomed, including the demand for high-fidelity microphones. The classic, sleek, and futuristic design of different microphones during that time, and especially the Shure SM55, is what we picture when someone says the word “microphone.” Hence, they were popular and durable, preferred by the most highly paid singers – no wonder the SM55 is often referred to as the “Elvis Microphone” as it was the one he used most often in the 1950s by many other performers during that time. 

1960s Microphone

The 1960s saw an entirely new microphone design, and Electro-Voice developed the Academy Award-winning shotgun microphone in 1963. This microphone was thin, like a stick, and long, bearing a completely different form to that of its ancestors. Due to their narrowness and forward sensitivity, shotgun microphones are most commonly used in TV, on film sets, stadiums, field and wildlife recording, and musical instruments. 

During the second half of the twentieth century, development advanced quickly. The Shure Brother introduced industry-standard microphones – the Shure SM58, which has landed as the top pick in our reviews many times, and the SM57. Many advancements and research have taken place in the last few decades, and the latest developments include fiber optics, lasers, and interferometers. If you’d like to learn more about the different microphone types, check out the article we wrote!

Best Old-School Microphones at a Glance

Our top pick for today is the Shure Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Microphone. It’s elegant, classic, and manages to combine that old-school charm with a very modern sound in a perfect way! Let’s find out more about it in our upcoming section.
 

In a hurry? Here are the top 10 old-school microphones at a glance:

  1. Top Pick – Shure Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Microphone – The Elvis Microphone
  2. Most Portable Old-School Microphone – Samson Meteor
  3. Best Old-School Microphone for Podcasters – MXL BCD-1 Dynamic Podcast Microphone 
  4. The Best Premium Old-School Microphone – Heil Sound The Fin Dynamic Microphone
  5. Best Old-School Microphone for Harmonic Sound – Blue Spark SL Large-Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone
  6. Best Old-School Microphone for Vocals – Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone
  7. Best Old-School Microphone for Clear and Harmonious Sound – Neumann KM 184
  8. The Best Old-School Retro Microphone – CAD Audio CADLive A77 Large Diaphragm Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone
  9. The Best Old-School Stage Microphone – Telefunken Ela M 251
  10. The Best Professional Old-School Microphone – AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Gray

Top 10 Best Old-School Microphones – Reviews

Here are ten of the best old-school microphones still available today!

1. Shure Super 55 Deluxe Vocal Microphone – The Elvis Microphone – Top Pick

Shure 55SH Series II Iconic Unidyne Vocal Microphone
  • Classic appearance modern performance
  • Frequency response tailored for speech vocals and instrumental music
  • Cardioid directional pattern for optimum performance in adverse acoustic environments

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Shure | Brand: Shure | Model: 55SHSERIESII | Color: Chrome | Material: Metal | Connectivity Technology: USB, XLR | Connector Type: USB, XLR | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: 1 Lithium ion batteries required | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 30.4 Oz. | Frequency Range: 50-15,000 Hz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 2-Year

This fantastic stage microphone feels luxurious from the moment you open the box.  The mic’s body is made of metal, and it’s chromed and has a solid build. This super-cardioid dynamic microphone has a blue foam windscreen behind the grille to ensure minimal plosives during your recording. It has incredible off-axis noise cancellation, and it’s just as impressive at handling it. If you want to pretend to be Elvis, you can take it off the stand and hold it in your hands. It shouldn’t make a massive difference to your recording, but it will look very cool.

Important disclaimer – this is not the identical microphone model used by Elvis in the 1950s. Still, Shure is confident that the SH Series II (the less advanced version) houses the same reliable cartridge. The Super 55 Deluxe looks like a great vintage microphone, but it’s equipped with high-level sound, perfect for stage performance. If you’re looking for the classic sound from the 1950s, you can expect that from the Super 55, with a more significant frequency response and output impedance. 

Pros
  • Looks gorgeous
  • Super-cardioid polar pattern
  • Perfect for live environment
  • Great feedback rejection
  • Cuts out the plosives
  • Amazing with handling noise
  • Presence boost available
Cons
  • Not cheap

2. Samson Meteor – Most Portable Old-School Microphone

SAMSON Meteor Mic USB Studio Condenser Microphone (Chrome)
  • Professional USB microphone with 1" Studio-quality Capsule.
  • Fold-back legs provide optimal mic positioning and folds up for easy transport.
  • Cardioid pickup pattern captures the Audio in front of the microphone, minimizing ambient sound from entering the recording.

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Samson | Brand: Samson | Model: SAMTR | Color: Chrome | Material: Titanium | Connectivity Technology: USB | Connector Type: USB | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 10.58 Oz. | Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 2-Year

This small and compact USB microphone is one of the cheaper options you can get on this list. The Samson Meteor is one of the best vintage microphones. It looks and sounds great, and you can easily transport it anywhere. There are three different finishes to choose from on Amazon – chrome, titanium black, and titanium red. There is very minimal change in the price depending on the color you desire.

The Samson Meteor has an all-metal body and sturdy construction. It has a great weight, so don’t be fooled by the shiny surface as this microphone doesn’t feel cheap. The body is pretty minimal, with a single knob and button. The knob allows you to control your headphone volume, and the button in the middle is a mute button. The microphone has three legs that resemble a tripod, but it can also be attached to a mic stand.

The microphone has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, picking up the entire audible spectrum. The Samson Meteor has a cardioid polar pattern, meaning it can pick up most of what’s being said right in front of it. If you’re a traveling podcaster, a comedian, or someone recording during a trip, this microphone is an excellent choice!

Pros
  • USB mic
  • Easy to set up
  • Affordable
  • Zero-latency monitoring
  • Built-in tripod
Cons
  • No microphone gain knob

3. MXL BCD-1 Dynamic Podcast Microphone – Best Old-School Microphone for Podcasters

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: MXL Mics | Brand: MXL Mics | Model: MXL-BCD-1 | Color: Black | Material: Metal | Connectivity Technology: XLR Connector | Connector Type: XLR | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: 1 C batteries required | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 16 Oz. | Frequency Range: 40 Hz-15 kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid | Warranty: 1-Year

The MXL BCD-1 dynamic broadcast microphone comes in a sturdy black box with foam covering that protects it in transit or during your travels. You might not even need it, but the microphone has an all-metal construction that is rugged and weighty and doesn’t seem easy to break. The MXL BCD-1 comes with a preattached mounting system, allowing you tons of versatility in positioning. You can plug an XLR cable into the XLR port located on the bottom of the mic. Likewise, you won’t find any knobs, toggles, or ports on the mic body.

This old-style mic has all the great microphone features in production today, so don’t be fooled by its retro look. The MXL BCD-1 is perfectly capable of recording vocals and acoustic instruments. The sound is excellent, and you’ll find it excels most as a broadcasting or podcasting microphone. Reviewers love this mic, and despite it being a dynamic microphone, they’re impressed how close it sounds to a condenser microphone. It also doesn’t catch all the background noise you would typically get with a condenser.

Pros
  • Comes with a free pop filter
  • Free microfibre cloth
  • No background noise
  • Preattached mounting system
  • Reasonable price
  • Rugged design
Cons
  • Dynamic mics have a high sensitivity

4. Heil Sound The Fin Dynamic Microphone – The Best Premium Old-School Microphone

Heil Sound The Fin Dynamic Microphone White White
  • Frequency response: 60Hz - 18 kHz
  • Polar pattern: cardiod
  • Impedance: 600 Ohm balanced

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: HEiL sound | Brand: HEiL sound | Model: FINWHITE | Color: White | Material: Aluminum | Connectivity Technology: XLR Connector | Connector Type: XLR 3-Pin | Power Source: N/A | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: N/A | Item Weight: 52.8 Oz. | Frequency Range: 60Hz – 18 kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 3-Year

If you’re looking for a cool and stylish retro mic that rivals the Super 55, the Heil Sound The Fin Deluxe dynamic microphone might pique your interest. The great thing about dynamic microphones is that they do not require phantom power to operate. If you want to learn more about power supplies and microphones, check out the FAQ section below!

The Fin has a cardioid polar pattern, which means it can pick up some of the noise on the sides (about 90 degrees on each side). This may not be ideal for people with a sound source nearby, which this kind of microphone can easily pick up. You can quickly fix that with a microphone isolation shield. You can browse lots of different microphone shields in our article! The nature of the dynamic microphone requires you to be up close and personal with it. You’ll also notice your voice will sound even better if you get right upon them.

The foam inside the Fin acts as a pop filter, which is nice, especially for those buying them for their looks. I doubt you would want to add a big windscreen in front of such a beautiful retro mic, especially if you’re on camera. The Heils Sound The Fin microphone has one of the most remarkable features I have come across. The microphone has LED lights inside, which add to its presence. If you’re a singer and want to have the most incredible vocal mic, you’ll look fantastic holding the Fin.

Pros
  • Amazing LED lights
  • Beautiful rich sound
  • +48 volt DC phantom voltage 
  • Built-in pop filter
  • Amazing vocal microphone
Cons
  • On the pricey side

5. Blue Spark SL Large-Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone – Best Old-School Microphone for Harmonic Sound

Sale
Blue Blackout Spark SL XLR Condenser Mic for Recording and Streaming, Large-Diaphragm Cardioid...
  • Custom Blue Condenser Capsule - Delivers Blue’s legendary broadcast sound quality with depth and clarity
  • Detailed, Transparent Sound - Spark SL excels in focused, transparent sound with superb detail
  • XLR Connection – Perfect for computer audio interfaces and mixers

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Blue Microphones | Brand: Blue Microphones | Model: 988-000075 | Color: Black | Material: Aluminum | Connectivity Technology: USB, XLR Connector | Connector Type: USB | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 11.52 Oz. | Frequency Range: 20 Hz to 20 kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 3-Year

The first thing you’ll love about this mic is the beautiful wooden storage box it comes in. There is no need to emphasize that the microphone itself looks gorgeous. For the price, you’ll also get a shock mount with this purchase.

The Blue Spark SL microphone has a sturdy metal body and metal mesh grille. You’ll find a 100Hz low-cut filter and a -20 dB pad for distortion-free recording on the front of the mic body. The Blue Spark SL has a cardioid polar pattern and does an incredible job at background noise rejection.

If you’re planning on recording an electric guitar, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how this mic handles high frequencies. The Blue Spark adds aggression to the high frequencies, while the low end sounds nice and tight.

What’s great about this mic is that it supports both XLR and USB output connectivity, so you can easily upgrade this microphone if you prefer to use the XLR output.

Pros
  • Great build quality
  • Amazing electric guitar recording
  • Beautiful piece of recording equipment
  • USB and XLR connection
  • High-pass and low-cut filters
Cons
  • Not the cheapest microphone

6. Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone – Best Old-School Microphone For Vocals

Rode Procaster Broadcast Dynamic Vocal Microphone
  • Featuring a tight polar pattern and tailored-for-voice frequency response
  • Perfect for every application where a great sounding, rugged microphone with superior ambient noise
  • Internal shock mounting of capsule for low handling noise

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Rode | Brand: Rode | Model: PROCASTER | Color: Black | Material: Metal | Connectivity Technology: XLR | Connector Type: XLR Male | Power Source: AC | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 26.24 Oz. | Frequency Range: 75 Hz-18 kHz | Polar Pattern: Unidirectional | Warranty: 10-Year

The Rode Procaster is an XLR dynamic microphone, so it won’t require phantom power to work. If you’re planning to purchase this mic or any other broadcasting mic and don’t want to crank up the gain, you can pick up a cloud lifter to avoid hearing that annoying hissing sound, which is so typical for dynamic mics.

This dynamic vocal microphone combines modern technology and vintage appeal with its robust, all-metal body. If you choose to buy this mic, you’ll also get a microphone mount, a 5/8 to 3/8 thread adapter, and a carrying pouch. It has an all-metal construction. It is pretty heavy, and it’s sturdy enough to be used for self-defense if it comes to it!

All jokes aside, this microphone has an internal shock mounting capsule, which does a great job of eliminating low handling noise. There is also an internal pop filter inside the Rode Procaster so that you won’t be hearing any plosives and pops during your audio recording. The Rode Procaster has a frequency response of 75 Hz to 18kHz, tailored for voice recording. You will upgrade the quality of your recording if you choose this microphone!

Pros
  • Internal shock absorption
  • Internal pop filter
  • Tailored for voice frequency response
  • Free shock mount
  • Free carrying bag
Cons
  • Pretty expensive

7. Neumann KM 184 – Best Old-School Microphone for Clear and Harmonious Sound

Neumann KM 184 Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Satin Nickel
  • Cardioid Polar Pattern
  • Transformerless circuitry
  • Trouble-free operation even with unbalanced equipment

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Neumann | Brand: Neumann | Model: 8439 | Color: Satin Nickel | Material: Brass | Connectivity Technology: XLR | Connector Type: XLR 3-Pin | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 16 Oz. | Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 2-Year

The Neumann KM 184 is often voted by reviewers “the best mic for acoustic guitar recording.” This Neumann mic is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone. If you want to learn more about the different types of mics, you can look at the microphone types guide we wrote!

The OG Neumann KM series first came out in the 1960s as KM 80 series and ran up until the 1990s. In 1993, the KM 180 series was first introduced, and since then, there have been three models to choose from. If you’re buying the KM 184, you’re buying a legacy and a piece of gear that still bears the vintage look of classic mics from the 80 series. The difference between the 80 series and this one is in the capsule itself. They may look identical, but the sound is entirely different.

You’ll see Neumann KM 184 series microphones worldwide – in music halls and recording studios. They even tend to be a go-to choice for classical music. The KM 184 microphones are some of the less expensive Neumann microphones. Yes, I agree that their price is a lot higher than other microphones out there, and you might ask, “Why would you spend so much money on a mic?”

The high price comes partly due to the brand reputation. Neumann has been around since before the Second World War. It is considered an industry standard, and their microphones are built to last. You can find microphones from the 1960s that are perfectly functional today. There is also a remarkable consistency across production where you can buy a dozen of them, and they will all sound the same. If you want a vintage microphone with genuinely incredible performance, you will love the KM 184.

Pros
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Stands the test of time
  • High-quality miniature microphone
  • Perfect for recording classical music
  • Amazing acoustic recording
Cons
  • Most expensive on the list

8. CAD Audio CADLive A77 Large Diaphragm Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone – The Best Old-School Retro Microphone

CAD Audio CADLive A77 Large Diaphragm Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone
  • .         True Flex diaphragm for articulate response
  • .         Power Gap Neodymium magnet for hot signal
  • Reimagined retro presentation of a classic

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: CAD Audio | Brand: CAD Audio | Model: A77 | Color: Gold | Material: Neodymium | Connectivity Technology: XLR | Connector Type: XLR 3-Pin | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: N/A | Item Weight: 16 Oz. | Frequency Range: 30Hz – 15kHz | Polar Pattern: Supercardioid | Warranty: 2-Year

The Cad Audio CADLive A77 large-diaphragm condenser microphone looks like an old-fashioned microphone, but there’s more than meets the eye. It has a super-cardioid polar pattern, meaning it has a narrower cardioid pattern and can easily block out unwanted off-axis noise.

The CAAD A77 has an all-metal body and a beautiful gold finish. This XLR microphone is excellent for live performance, and it is equipped with a modern version of the original capsule. It has been upgraded with PowerGap high-gauss magnets, creating a hot signal, making this a ribbon microphone simultaneously.

You’ll be impressed how great it can sound recording your voice, and it should also do a remarkable job at recording some classical instruments. If you’re a stand-up comedian, this gold mic is sure to grab everyone’s attention!

Pros
  • Powerful magnets inside
  • Amazing vocal recording
  • Beautiful old-timey microphone
  • Up-to-date features
  • Audio clarity
  • Great for studio recording
Cons
  • No XLR cable

9. Telefunken Ela M 251 – The Best Old-School Stage Microphone

Telefunken ELA M 251E with CK-12 Capsule Tube Condenser Microphone
  • Type: Condenser Pressure Gradient Capsule: CK12 - 25 mm Edge Terminated Diaphragm Tube Type: GE JAN 6072a (NOS) Transformer: Haufe T14/1 Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional and Bidirectional...

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: Telefunken | Brand: Telefunken | Model: SYTM-003 | Color: Creamy off-white | Material: N/A | Connectivity Technology: XLR | Connector Type: XLR 3 | Power Source: Corded Electric (M 950E PSU) | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: N/A | Item Weight: 400 Oz. (25 Pounds) | Frequency Range: 20Hz – 20kHz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional and Bidirectional | Warranty: 10-Year

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “old-school microphone,” I think of the late 1990s to early 2000s handheld stage mics. I underestimated their audio quality for the longest time, and I bet some of you did too. However, you’ll find some old-school stage mics with incredible performance, a rugged design created to resist any stage abuse usually received by these sturdy mics.

One of these mics, you probably guessed already, is the Telefunken Ela M251. It may not look like your typical Elvis Presley 1950s microphone. In comparison to other mics, however, it does a fantastic job at recording instruments and drums. The rugged design and flattened edges keep it from rolling away from you if you drop it or leave it on a table temporarily.

This microphone is what people would refer to as a “condenser-like” stage microphone. It has a clean and clear sound for a dynamic microphone, which makes it so unique. Vocal microphones can rarely endure high SPL, but the Telefunken M80 does that exceedingly well.

Pros
  • Free zippered storage bag
  • 5/8 inch threading, perfect for live use
  • Amazing build quality
Cons
  • Not an “antique” microphone

10. AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Gray – The Best Professional Old-School Microphone

AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Grey
  • Sonic character of the C414 XLII for beautifully detailed recording of lead vocals and solo instruments
  • Outstanding dynamic range and ultralow noise for close-up recording of high-output sources of up to 156dB SPL
  • Switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter for close-up recording and reduction of proximity effect

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Manufacturer: AKG Pro Audio | Brand: AKG Pro Audio | Model: C214 | Color: Grey | Material: Metal | Connectivity Technology: Wired | Connector Type: XLR | Power Source: Corded Electric | Required number of Batteries: N/A | Number of Channels: 1 | Item Weight: 28.22 Oz. | Frequency Range: 20-20,000 Hz | Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Unidirectional | Warranty: 1-Year

The AKG Pro C214 comes with everything an excellent podcaster or broadcaster would need. This includes a sturdy box for safe transportation, a shock mount, a windscreen to protect from plosives, and a 5/8 to 3/8 adapter, which allows you to mount it on a boom arm or mic stand.

On the side of the mic, you’ll find a high-pass filter which is 6 dB per octave starting at 160Hz. It’s excellent for recording both vocals and instruments. It has integrated suspension, reducing mechanical noise and stage vibration.

You’ll love this microphone’s build quality. It’s sturdy and comes with a rugged metal die-cast body and a metal mesh grille. The AKG Pro C214 has a shock-resistant and scratch-resistant finish. I would recommend this mic for recording vocals, guitars, and drum overheads. The microphone also features a -20-decibel pad, which you can switch on when recording louder sound sources without any distortion.

Pros
  • Amazing build quality
  • Free shock mount, windscreen, and storage case
  • Switchable decibel pad
  • Excellent at handling high SPL
Cons
  • Second most expensive on the list

What to Consider Before Purchasing an Old-School Microphone? 

We can all agree that old-school microphones are gorgeous. After all, they combine the looks of 1950s and 1960s microphones with the performance of professional studio mics today. However, there’s more to mics than just beauty and performance. There are also several other factors you should consider before buying an old-school microphone. 

Portability

Vintage microphone clones, thankfully, aren’t as fragile as their predecessors in the twentieth century. Most microphones today will be equipped with a rugged body, durable enough to withhold some unintentional drops (of course, that doesn’t mean you should go on and drop your mic on purpose to test this theory). Most retro microphones come with compatible cases or zip bags and protective foam to keep them safe during travels or transit. This list features retro microphones with durable structures and portable protective cases. 


Voicing

Generally speaking, you should be looking for a vocal microphone if you’re planning on recording your voice or singing. Old-fashioned microphone clones will probably sound great when recording spoken word or singing. We can also guarantee that all microphones featured on this list can pick up a wide range of frequencies. Some microphones are tailored to record human voice, so they won’t only look fantastic on video or during your live performance. They’ll sound amazing the moment they’re plugged in. 


Budget

Perhaps the biggest downside when it comes to buying retro mics is the budget. Most well-made classic mic clones tend to be XLR mics, which need a preamp or mixer to drive them. However, this adds more to your cost. Of course, most professionals you meet will tell you to buy an XLR mic because it allows you the flexibility to toggle with the settings and do some post-processing to your audio. There are plenty of USB mics that have a retro look, and we even featured a few on our list to save you some cash.

Venue

Microphones are a must-have for any venue or business with live performances. Whether you host gigs every night or do an occasional karaoke night on Wednesdays, not all microphones will be suitable on stage. Many antique mics don’t have the sound capabilities of modern mics. Thus, it’s always best to get something vintage or retro-looking that’s guaranteed to sound amazing. Likewise, don’t forget to buy a mic stand. There are lots of them in our best microphone stand review!


Compatibility

If you didn’t purchase a recording studio from the 1950s, the chances are that the antique mic you got from a website last night won’t be able to connect to your processing equipment. The same goes for live environments. Do you have speakers that work with your retro microphone? Some ribbon microphones from the 1960s sound amazing to this day, but they can be so sensitive, and the wrong kind of plug can break them in seconds. Unless you’re an audio professional, I recommend you stick to vintage mic clones. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Vintage Microphones

You probably have lots of questions about vintage microphones and mic clones, and I’d hate to leave you puzzled, so here are the top three most famously asked questions!

Is There a Difference Between a Vintage and Microphone Clone?

Of course! Tons of audio equipment collectors can quickly point out the differences. Some are so small that they become unnoticeable, like the size of the grid holes on a microphone. Other differences are situated under the surface of the mic in the condenser capsule. Most antique microphones collectors go after are 1950s microphones, typically ribbon microphones or tube mics. They are considered the best vintage microphones and are usually sold for more than their original value.

A lot of these mics are now discontinued. That’s why the hunt for the best vintage microphone has become so popular in recent years, and with it, the growth in sales of the so-called retro microphone clones. A microphone clone is designed to look like an old-fashioned microphone, and it is, however, packed with all the modern features expected by many performers and audio professionals today.


Do Old-School Mics Need a Power Supply?

Some old-school microphone clones require phantom power to operate. On the other hand, dynamic microphones don’t need phantom power, so if you happen to purchase a retro dynamic mic from this list, worry not. It doesn’t need to be connected to phantom power. Dynamic mics aren’t “hot.” This means they are not as powerful, and you might have to pump up the gain on your preamps to hear it properly. Sometimes, that means you may listen to an underlying hiss when you put headphones on and listen to your audio. You can get around this hiss by purchasing a FET head or Cloudlifter, but this may add significantly to your overall cost.

If you get your hands on an old-school mic that isn’t a clone, you might need phantom power to run it, but be super careful! Check the voltage on your phantom power, and ensure it’s compatible with the mic you purchased. Otherwise, there’s a high chance of overpowering it!


Can I Connect the Vintage Mic to My Laptop or Smartphone?

You’re on a mission if you’re trying to connect the 1950s or 1960s microphone directly to your laptop or modern equipment. I might even disappoint you by saying it’s downright impossible in some cases. However, if you choose one of the vintage microphones on this list, you’ll be happy to know they are just as easy to connect as any regular modern-day mic. 

Before You Head Out

I hope you find this article interesting! If you’re looking for more related content, take a peek at our review of the best podcasting microphones and the best microphones for YouTube, too!

Cite this article as: Jim Peterson, "What are the Best Old-School Microphones of 2021?," in My Speech Class, October 5, 2021, https://www.myspeechclass.com/old-school-microphone.html.